Football: Football officials rallied behind English referee Howard Webb yesterday following harsh criticism of his handling of the brutal World Cup final.
The Rotherham official has been slammed by both the Holland and Spain camps with Holland's Arjen Robben claiming Howard Webb was not up to the job of refereeing Sunday's final.
Webb dished out a record 14 yellow cards, including two for Holland's Johnny Heitinga, in what has largely been viewed as an exceptionally difficult match to control.
Nigel de Jong seemed incredibly lucky to have stayed on the pitch, along with team-mates Mark van Bommel and Wesley Sneijder, but Robben believes he was the victim of a gross injustice when Carles Puyol - who had already been booked - tried to stop him racing clean through when the match was still level.
Robben accepts neither side made it easy for the referee but claimed that Webb was not strong enough to handle it.
"It is wrong when you sit in the dressing room together and you are only talking about the referee and his very bad points," Robben said.
"There were some strange decisions and for me, honestly, if you play a World Cup final, you need a world-class referee. I don't know whether that was a world-class performance from the referee."
Holland boss Bert van Marwijk added: "I don't think the referee controlled the match well."
Despite a general feeling in the Dutch press yesterday that the best side won, that did not spare Webb from their wrath.
AD Sportwereld wrote: "The Dutch national team perished in the World Cup final - thanks largely to a chump of a referee."
De Telegraaf noted: "That he was booed at the final ceremony by both the Dutch and Spanish fans was significant."
Spanish press were also keen to make Webb the villain of the piece.
"Holland committed 28 fouls and the referee should have sent off de Jong for a karate kick on Xabi Alonso," La Vanguardia opined, before adding: "Sneijder was also let off and Howard Webb failed to award a penalty for a Heitinga foul on Xavi."
Spanish newspaper Marca launched a tirade against Webb that began: "Spain won despite you, Howard Webb."
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce leapt to the defence of the English referee.
Bruce said: "I think he handled the thing very, very well. He was also mindful of the fact that he didn't want to spoil the occasion by brandishing red cards.
"But 14 yellow cards - and you could look at them and think all of them, really, deserved it."
Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher branded Holland's treatment of Webb "disgraceful" and claimed it made the Englishman's task very difficult.
Gallagher said: "He will never ever if he lives to be 100 referee a tougher match.
"I've never seen a referee put under so much pressure, I've never seen a team employ so much bully-boy tactics and the way they harangued him at the end was absolutely disgraceful to be honest.
"It's a long, long time since I've seen a referee put under so much pressure."
Fifa president Sepp Blatter insisted under-fire Webb had had a "very hard task."
Blatter refused to comment on the rugged approach by Holland, who eventually lost 1-0 in extra time, but did say: "The side that played football won.
"It was not easy, really not easy and they were really not helped in this task I can say."